In this week’s issue… “Roxy” Gets Hit(s) – A New “Boss” at the Shore – RI FM primed for sale? – More Talk in CNY – Boston country gets Blue
By SCOTT FYBUSH
*We kick off this week with a pair of format changes along the Atlantic coast, some 180 miles apart.
In New London, CONNECTICUT, Wednesday brought a format change at the Hall Communications cluster, where WKNL (100.9) dropped its hot AC “Roxy” format after a little more than four years on the air. In place of Roxy, 100.9 is now “K-Hits,” returning to a version of the classic hits format it used until December 2012. Back then, it was “Kool 101;” that branding was snapped up by competitor Red Wolf, which now uses “Kool” on WSKP (1180 Hope Valley RI) and its FM translator at 104.3. The Roxy airstaff stays in place with the new K-Hits.
(Meanwhile at the other end of the Nutmeg State, Irv Goldstein’s WLAD (800 Danbury, plus its new translator at 94.5) is moving from the Red Sox network to the Mets network for 2017. Goldstein, a passionate Sox fan, says the move is about business, not about what he’d most like to hear personally.)
Down the shore in NEW JERSEY, it was Press Communications making a Friday flip at two of its FM signals. WWZY (107.1 Long Branch) dropped hot AC “Fun 107” in favor of classic rock as “The Boss;” the flip also took Ocean County sister station WBHX (99.7 Tuckerton) from classic hits “The Island” to a “Boss” simulcast, albeit one that’s not mentioned anywhere in the new “Boss” imaging.
The “Pork Roll and Eggs” morning show from Fun 107 will migrate to sister “Thunder Country” WKMK 106.3/WTHJ 106.5; for now, “Boss” is running jockless.
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In Atlantic City, Phil Rossi is the new afternoon jock on WAYV (95.1), filling the hole left last fall by Nicky G’s departure for Philadelphia and WOGL.
Over in New Brunswick, Maryann Morgan is the new morning co-host at Beasley’s WMGQ (98.3), where she joins Joel Katz.
*Luis Jimenez is on his way back to Spanish-language radio in NEW YORK City. After making a name for himself over many years at WSKQ (Mega 97.9), Jimenez jumped to Univision competitor WCAA (105.9) in 2008, staying on when WCAA morphed into WXNY (X 96.3) in 2009. Univision syndicated Jimenez’ show nationally before cutting him loose in 2014. After a brief return to WSKQ’s SBS sister station, WPAT-FM (Amor 93.1), Jimenez had been webcasting lately. Next Monday, though, he’ll return to mornings at WXNY (X96.3), hoping to boost the ratings at the Spanish-language rhythmic CHR station.
Mark Mason’s long New York radio career has included news, programming and management gigs at WMCA (570), WINS (1010), WABC (770), WFAN (660) and ESPN Radio over more than four decades. For the last eight years, Mason has been VP/digital media for CBS New York, overseeing the web portal that’s home to WINS, WFAN, WCBS (880) and WCBS-TV. He retired last Monday (Feb. 28), and we wish him all the best!
Sean McMaster is out at Townsquare’s country WGNA (107.7 Albany) after a long run there; no word yet on where the 20-year veteran is headed. Co-host Bethany is handling the WGNA morning show solo for now.
Two new community LPFMs have hit the air in the Albany area: at 105.3, WOOC-LP in Troy began testing last week from the Sanctuary for Independent Media, and at 107.3, WCAA-LP is running a test loop from Grand Street Community Arts.
In Utica, Roser’s WUTQ (100.7) has dropped the soft AC part of its format, flipping last Monday to all-talk, with a hefty dose of local news simulcasts from WKTV (Channel 2). WKTV kicks off the morning at 5 AM, followed by the existing “Talk of The Town” morning show hosted by Dave Coombs and Jason Aiello from 6-10. After that, it’s Glenn Beck at 10, more WKTV at noon, Laura Ingraham at 1 PM, Dave Ramsey at 3, WKTV again at 5, “America Now” at 6, Michael Savage at 9 PM and “Red Eye Radio” overnight as WUTQ goes up against Townsquare’s venerable WIBX (950).
In Buffalo, Chris Reynolds is out as brand manager/PD at Townsquare’s WBLK (93.7) after 14 years with the station; no replacement has been named yet.
Syracuse TV veteran Carrie Lazarus says it was her choice to not renew her contract as 5/5:30/6 PM anchor at Nexstar’s WSYR-TV (Channel 9) when it expired March 2. Lazarus, who’d been a fixture alongside Rod Wood for much of her 30-plus years at channel 9, will stay with the station in a reduced role, doing her “Extraordinary People and Places of Upstate New York” segments and a new long-form interview segment as well. Christie Casciano will add the evening anchor job to her existing role as 4 and 11 PM anchor.
Watertown and the North Country lost a good friend to radio with the death Feb. 24 of veteran engineer Mike Ring. Most recently the chief engineer at the Stephens Media Group cluster, Ring had worked for four decades at many stations in the market. Ring had been battling leukemia, and in the weeks before his death the broadcast community in Watertown banded together to send him good wishes and support for him and his family. Ring was just 61.
*One of the biggest FM signals in RHODE ISLAND may soon be up for sale. Brown Broadcasting Service, the student/alumni-run nonprofit that owns WBRU (95.5 Providence), is considering joining the many other college-based stations that have cashed in on their FM licenses in recent years.
In a letter sent to alumni last week, WBRU student GM Kishanee Haththotuwegama said the station is “faced with the reality that broadcast radio may not be the most engaging content distribution technology for the student workshop in the 21st century,” which is why the Brown Broadcasting board voted to put the question of the station’s FM future up to its student membership. The students will vote March 11 on whether to consider a possible sale, though even then there’s no guarantee the station will reach a deal with a buyer.
Who’d be in line for the WBRU class B signal if it does hit the market? The two big commercial groups in Providence, iHeart and Cumulus, each have financial issues that have kept them from being buyers in recent years, though 95.5 would be a considerable upgrade for iHeart’s downgraded WWBB (101.5) classic hits format or for Cumulus urban rimshot WWKX (106.3 Woonsocket). Two smaller commercial players, Hall (WCTK 98.1) and Red Wolf (WKKB 100.3), might be contenders to grow their presence – and on the noncommercial side, there’s always EMF’s “K-Love” or Rhode Island Public Radio, though it has its hands full right now with its own impending acquisition of WUMD (89.3) from UMass Dartmouth.
*A familiar MASSACHUSETTS voice is the latest to take the morning slot at Beasley’s WKLB (102.5 Waltham). Jackson Blue was already part of the Greater Media/Beasley family, where he’d been doing afternoons on WBQT (Hot 96.9). He’ll work alongside Hannah Byrom, and Beasley’s now looking for an afternoon replacement on Hot.
Over at Blue’s earlier Clear Channel/iHeart stomping grounds in the Boston market, there’s a new lineup on WJMN (94.5), where Geespin’s evening slot has been filled by APD/MD DJ Pup Dawg. Ashlee, who’d been the local host for “The Breakfast Club” and had her own shift in early middays, moves to afternoons, sending Maverick to the midday shift.
*It’s the end of an era in Newton, where WNTN (1550) signed off for the last time Sunday from the studio/transmitter site on Rumford Avenue where it’s been located since it signed on back in 1968. The station has already relocated its studios to Needham, and it will be back on the air soon from its new diplexed transmitter site in Cambridge, shared with WJIB (740 Cambridge).
Out west, WWLP (Channel 22) from Springfield has long been the sole in-state TV presence on the local cable system in Berkshire County, but a notice that Spectrum placed in local papers says it will be disappearing at the end of March. Berkshire County is part of the Albany, New York DMA, and Albany NBC affiliate WNYT (Channel 13) is the main NBC affiliate on the system. Will local viewers complain about losing access to the Massachusetts newscasts that WWLP provides? (Further complicating matters is that WWLP and Albany ABC affiliate WTEN, plus WTEN’s Mount Greylock satellite WCDC, are both owned by Media General, which is merging into Nexstar.)
*In the Upper Valley market that spans NEW HAMPSHIRE and VERMONT, Sugar River Media is starting to make some changes to the stations it recently acquired from Bob Vinikoor. In Springfield, WCFR (1480) and its 106.5 translator have shifted from “Springfield’s Variety” to “Rewind 106.5,” focusing on hits of the 1980s and 1990s. Former GM Ray Kimball has departed, and the station is now being run by Steve Smith from sister station WCNL in Newport. Over in Randolph, it’s now Aaron Gonthier in Kimball’s former GM position at WCVR (1320); he tells NERW the station is moving to more modern classic country. Listeners overwhelmingly wanted “fewer whining songs,” Gonthier tells us.
*More translators are coming to PENNSYLVANIA‘s biggest market. Beasley’s leased-time ethnic WWDB (860 Philadelphia) has lit up its new 104.9 translator, W285FF, running 99 watts from the old PSFS Building tower in Center City.
What’s going on at little WWCB (1370 Corry)? NERW hears that the station east of Erie has lost most of its staff rather abruptly.
*In deepest western Ontario, CANADA, the CBC is planning to shut down two more of its remaining low-power AM relay transmitters. CBLM (1090 Marathon) and CBEH (1010 Terrace Bay) will go off the air once the Corporation gets approval for a new FM signal in Marathon. The new FM on 107.5 would run 2.2 kW average/3.9 kW max DA/280 m. The project will also include a power boost to ICI Premiere relay CBON-29 (102.3) in Marathon, which will go from 765 w/273 m to identical facilities to the new 107.5. Another ICI Premiere relay in the region, CBON-6 (1010 Blind River), is applying to go to 98.5 with 136 w/7 m.
We’re a community.
From the NERW Archives
Yup, we’ve been doing this a long time now, and so we’re digging back into the vaults for a look at what NERW was covering one, five, ten, fifteen and – where available – twenty years ago this week, or thereabouts.
Note that the column appeared on an erratic schedule in its earliest years as “New England Radio Watch,” and didn’t go to a regular weekly schedule until 1997.
One Year Ago: March 7, 2016
*While your editor was out of the region visiting lots of interesting stations in North Carolina and Virginia last week (get ready for some neat Tower Site of the Week installments coming soon!), the region spent Leap Week relatively quietly.
So quietly, in fact, that we’re leading off along the US 6 corridor in northern PENNSYLVANIA, where we don’t usually spend a lot of time. This week, though, there are two format changes to report in the area:
In Dushore, southeast of Elmira, Geos Communications has a new identity for what had been hot AC “KZ-FM.” WNKZ (103.9 Dushore) is now WDYS, sister station WZKN (96.9 Ridgebury) is now WVYS, and along with Sayre-area translator W297BG (107.3 Ulster) they’re now AC as “Yes-FM.”
The new “Yes” has the syndicated “Murphy, Sam & Jodi” in mornings, Jodi Black in middays, Steve Worthington in afternoons and syndicated Dr. Laura Berman at night.
*A RHODE ISLAND radio veteran has died. Arthur Osterhout was much better known as “King Arthur Knight” over his long career as a DJ. Knight started in Akron, Ohio in 1958, spent some time at Scranton’s WARM (590) and then came to the Ocean State in 1962 to be PD at WICE (1290) in Providence. After pulling record ratings at WICE, Knight went to Boston in the 1970s to do nights at WMEX (1510). He returned to WICE in 1978, then went to WPRO (630) in 1982 and retired in 1989. Knight was inducted into the Rhode Island Radio Hall of Fame in 2012; he died Feb. 26 at age 79.
Five Years Ago: March 5, 2012
*Who wants one of the last big-market FM signals to become available in CANADA? Just about everyone, at least judging by the list the CRTC released last week in preparation for a May 7 hearing at which it will decide who inherits the 88.1 frequency that became open in Toronto when community station CKLN lost its license last year.
In all, 22 broadcasters submitted proposals to use 88.1, and they fall broadly into three categories:
Existing stations seeking a better signal: The 88.1 signal’s not a great one to begin with – just a few hundred watts from the First Canadian Place tower in downtown Toronto – but it’s still better than some of the even more minimal signals that have been crammed on to the Toronto dial in recent years. Evanov’s gay-oriented CIRR (103.9 PROUD FM), French community station CHOQ (105.1) and Fitzroy Gordon’s new urban station, CKFG (98.7) are all asking to go to 88.1 as an upgrade. Two big AM signals, Radio-Canada’s CJBC (860) and MZ Media’s CFZM (740), are asking to use 88.1 as a nested relay to overcome AM signal problems in downtown Toronto. (Yes, both stations run huge 50 kW non-directional signals on AM from a site out at Hornby, northwest of Toronto, but they argue that electrical interference from streetcar lines and other sources wipes out those signals downtown. That’s the same argument the CBC made back in 1999, when it moved Radio One from 740 to 99.1.)
New commercial signals from big players – and small. Several of the very biggest players in Canadian radio, including Corus and Bell Media, already have the maximum number of stations allowed in Toronto. But even with those giants out of the picture, there are plenty of other commercial groups that would love a new voice in the nation’s biggest market. Newcap wants to use 88.1 for a “modern adult music” format, Montreal’s Tietolman-Tetrault-Pancholy group wants to do talk, Larche Communications seeks a “rock-based Adult Album Alternative” format, Durham Radio (which owns suburban station CJKX in Ajax) wants “new easy listening music,” and Barrie’s Rock 95 Broadcasting wants “Indie music.” Frank Torres, owner of Ottawa’s “DAWG FM” (CIDG 101.9), wants a commercial signal that will play at least 20% jazz and blues, while Michael Wekerle proposes a commercial triple-A format.
New community/ethnic stations. Since CKLN was a community/campus station, one might suspect the CRTC will want to keep the frequency dedicated to that use. (Unlike in the US, there are no channels in Canada permanently set aside for noncommercial or community use.)
*There’s now just one public radio operation in western NEW YORK. The merger of WBFO (88.7 Buffalo) into its erstwhile rival, WNED (970 Buffalo), went off right on schedule Thursday afternoon at 4 with a recorded announcement that aired on both stations as they entered their new simulcast from WNED’s studios in downtown Buffalo.
(Just in case the switchover didn’t work properly, WBFO’s Mark Scott was on hand at the former WBFO studios to run “All Things Considered” from there, we’re told!)
Now that the full schedule for the merged operation is out, it’s clear that WNED is absorbing more of WBFO’s DNA than many observers had expected. The first local voice heard on the merged signal was former WBFO host Mark Wozniak, who’ll be hosting “All Things Considered” on WBFO/WNED, and while he opened his first newscast as “Mark Wozniak, WNED News,” most of the branding for the rest of the show was “WBFO,” the AM section of the website now redirects to WBFO.org, and the daytime programming on 88.7 and 970 is a mix of the old 88.7 and 970 schedules: “On Point” and “Here and Now” from WNED, “Tell Me More” and “Talk of the Nation” from WBFO.
*Along the PENNSYLVANIA/NEW JERSEY border, there’s a new format at WTSX (96.7 Lehman Township PA). That’s the signal that was moved out of Port Jervis and down to the Delaware Water Gap to make room for the new WKLV-FM in the New York market, and after many years simulcasting “Fox” AC WJGK (103.1 Newburgh NY), it’s now going its own way with classic hits. (RadioInsight notes that WJGK has picked up a new relay in the meantime – it’s being heard on W247AW on 97.3 in Poughkeepsie, by way of the relay on sister station WGNY-FM 98.9’s HD3 subchannel.)
Ten Years Ago: March 5, 2007
*A happy reunion of a central PENNSYLVANIA morning show turned to mourning last week. Less than a month after Jeff “Jammer” Kauffman reunited with his former co-host Ed Coffey and Amy Warner to bring the “Coffey and Jammer” show back on the air at WTPA (93.5 Mechanicsburg), Kauffman took ill, missing much of last week on the air and prompting the station to call police Friday morning. When they arrived at his Berks County home, they found Kauffman had died, apparently of a heart attack – and it was up to Coffey and Warner to break the news on the air Friday morning, before ending the show early and putting the station on automation.After a radio career that started at WKBO (1230 Harrisburg) and WHTF (92.7 Starview), Kauffman had been doing afternoons at WTPA in 1988 when he was paired with Coffey in morning drive. The two hit it off, and their show was one of the Harrisburg market’s most popular before Kauffman departed in 1995, eventually to become a copy editor at the Reading Eagle and Reading Times. He returned to WTPA and the “Coffey and Jammer Show” in 2001, and the station drew protests three years later when it replaced the pair with the syndicated Bob and Tom Show. Coffey and Warner ended up at WMHX (106.7 Hershey), but when they returned to WTPA late last year, the station persuaded Kauffman to come back as well.
The latest incarnation of “Coffey and Jammer” debuted the first week of February, and station officials tell the York Daily Record that Kauffman had been ill for much of the time since then, though they say they had no idea it was anything life-threatening. Kauffman was 57 years old.
*Moving along to NEW YORK, WCBS (880) has renewed its contract with the Yankees, to nobody’s great surprise – but there’s one new piece to the deal: the team’s Spanish-language broadcasts, with Beto Villa calling the play-by-play, will move to Univision Radio’s WQBU-FM (92.7 Garden City), marking the first time we can think of that a Spanish-language FM has been a baseball flagship in New York. (And, yes, WQBU-FM is indeed now the official callsign on the former WZAA, after some confusion in which those new calls were instead placed on sister station WCAA 105.9.)
In Buffalo, Citadel’s WHTT (104.1) has fully implemented its new “Mix” identity, complete with a new logo on its website. What to call the station’s format now? “Classic hits” seems pretty close to the mark, though with a randomly-chosen recent hour (the one in which we’re writing this column, as it happens) including everything from Carl Carlton to Uncle Kracker, we’d accept “adult hits” as a valid description, too.
*A call-and-format swap in CONNECTICUT has returned a heritage callsign to the frequency it long called home. WNEZ (1480 Windsor) has reclaimed its former calls, WKND, and the urban AC format that went with them. The WNEZ calls, and the Spanish news-talk format that went with them, replace WKND on 1230 in Manchester.
*In MAINE, Light of Life Ministries made its frequency swaps Friday, moving southern gospel “God’s Country” from WMDR (1340 Augusta) to WMDR-FM (88.9 Oakland) and its translator network that stretches from Portland to Bangor.
The youth-oriented “Zap” religious format that was on the FM network moved to AM, as “Zap 1340.”
Fifteen Years Ago: March 11, 2002
We’ll start in MASSACHUSETTS, where the Pax TV folks have come up with what may be an ingenious solution to some vexing DTV issues. WBPX (Channel 68) in Boston is one of several dozen stations around the country that will have to vacate its UHF channel in the next few years, as the FCC prepares to auction off the UHF spectrum above channel 51, in the “non-core” portion of the dial. While the auction will bring in some needed revenue for Pax (which owns many of the stations above channel 51 that will be displaced), it had the potential to leave the fledgling network without an outlet in Boston. Enter WBPX’s digital allotment on channel 32. While Pax has yet to build WBPX-DT, it’s asking the FCC to allow an unusual substitution: the move of WBPX’s analog facilities from channel 68 to 32, to be replaced by a digital signal sometime after 2007. (2007 note – the change was never granted.)
Just one bit of RHODE ISLAND news, and it’s just like our Massachusetts lead story: Pax wants to move WPXQ (Channel 69) Block Island to its digital allocation on channel 17. The move would keep WPXQ at its current transmitter site near East Greenwich, roughly in the center of the state; this one would be 4 megawatts, directional, from 220 meters AAT. The FCC must approve some overlap between WPXQ on channel 17 and Schenectady’s WMHT-TV, also on 17, to make this one happen.
One big anniversary in NEW HAMPSHIRE: WFEA (1370 Manchester) turned 70 on March 1, still using the same Blaw-Knox diamond tower (one of just four originals remaining in the U.S.) it has had since its sign-on in 1932. Congratulations, and here’s to 70 more!
In PENNSYLVANIA, there’s a new signal in downtown Pittsburgh, as Keymarket completes its move of WOGI (98.3) from Charleroi to Duquesne, landing the “Froggy” country station on the same North Side tower as competitor WDSY (107.9 Pittsburgh). Matt Allbritton, formerly of yet another Froggy (WOGY Memphis), arrives as PD as the station splits from its simulcast of WOGG (94.9 Oliver).
Twenty Years Ago: March 5, 1997
Boston’s “Praise 1260” made its formal debut Monday morning (March 3) at 6 AM. Salem’s WPZE was expected to run a contemporary Christian music format, but is instead running a different group of preachers from those who lease time on Salem’s WEZE (“Family 590,” and the former occupant of the 1260 slot.) Speaking of leased-time AM in Boston, rumor has it the top contender for Greater Media’s WNFT (1150), former home of the defunct KidStar network, is competing kids’ web Radio Disney.
Also making its official debut on the Boston radio dial this past weekend was Radio Free Allston, the unlicensed operation on 106.1 in Boston’s Allston neighborhood. Helped along by some very nice publicity in the Boston Phoenix (including some pithy quotes from Boston Radio Archives co-creator Garrett Wollman), RFA celebrated its start-up with an all-day broadcast from Herrell’s Renaissance Cafe in Allston. NERW was in Boston for the weekend, and had a chance to tune in to some of RFA’s offerings. Technically, the station needs some work — a lot of what they were saying was inaudible, and a locally-produced drama called “The Real World Allston” suffered from some of the worst audio I’ve ever heard. The RFA folks are clearly trying hard, though, and in an age of increasingly monopolistic bottom-line radio, it is nice to see someone actually trying to serve the community.
Some big changes are afoot in upstate New York radio, most notably on the 94.1 spot in Rochester. WAQB Brighton has been running nothing but K-Tel’s Instrumental Hits CDs since signing on last year. Now ARS is about to launch WAQB for real…although the station was off the air on Wednesday with technical problems. Expect the new format within a few days; rumor has it they’ll go right up against one of the other FMs in town with their as-yet-undisclosed format. AM 990 has taken the next step towards becoming religious WDCZ(AM), with an application to transfer the license from ARS to Donald Crawford’s Kimtron. Jacor is getting bigger in Rochester, spending $7 million to pick up Auburn Cablevision’s AAA WMAX-FM (106.7 Irondequoit) along with WMAX simulcast WMHX (102.3 Canandaigua) and smooth jazz WRCD (107.3 Honeoye Falls), which are owned by the Kimble family. Jacor is reportedly looking to grab one more FM in town to fill out its portfolio, which is led by WHAM (1180), WHTK (1280), WVOR (100.5), and WNVE (95.1, with a Rochester translator on 95.5). And little WIRQ at Irondequoit High School has been granted a move from 94.3 to 104.7, a move made necessary by WAQB’s arrival.